In the late 1970’s the decision was made to begin developing China’s tourist industry, and a much closer look into how China was promoted to the rest of the world as a country of the 21st century was taken. With tourism being such a massive part of modern day China, the effects a growing global interest has on this country’s rich culture, and its people, are clearly evident. These effects are seen not only in China’s rapidly and constantly changing architecture, but also in China’s old customs and traditions.
In the many tourist brochures that are available, China is universally described as being ‘enchanting’, ‘elegant’ and ‘mystical’, with a majority of the focus being put on where would be considered a ‘hotspot’ for travellers, and why. These hotspots are typically the more traditional parts of China; places such as the Temple of Heaven and the Forbidden City have primary focus for their rich cultural history.
With fewer restrictions on travel, and more areas of China being renovated and reopened for tourists, China has fast become one of the most popular holiday destinations today, becoming the third most visited country in the world, bringing in massive profits to further aid the progression of the countries plans for advancement. However, while the growing tourist interest is undeniably positive for the country’s national trade industry, this shift can also have detrimental effects on its people. China has begun renovating the older more traditional areas, some parts of Beijing for example, to be replaced with more ‘attractive’, modern buildings that will appeal more to those who would be coming to the country for business or leisure. Many people living in these areas have had to leave their homes due to this reconstruction. This change is creating a clear divide between the ‘modern’ China, with its high-rise cityscapes, and ‘older’ China, in the countryside and also the untouched parts of the city.
This strive for modernisation is one of the main reasons for demolishing many of the Hutongs in Beijing, an ongoing project that will wipe many of the traditional courtyard houses off the map to be replaced with large, generic apartment buildings. These traditional estates have been around for centauries, and are not only a key part of Chinese heritage, but are also a major selling point for many foreign visitors. Numerous holiday packages that are available, Thomas Cook and STA travel being an example of them, include an ‘evening tour of the ancient ‘Hutong’ district of Beijing by rickshaw,’ an event that is advertised as one not to be missed for its link to the countries cultural history.
There is a huge market base in Beijing for tourism in the Hutongs, and this interest also opens up many job opportunities for local residents. Many tourists thinking of visiting China have agreed that they would prefer to pay money to visit the more traditional areas, rather than being surrounded by skyscrapers that the more modern parts of China have to offer, and though the modern architecture is impressive, it lacks the antiquity of some of the older buildings, such as that in the Forbidden City, that are so alluring to visitors. It is this fact alone that has kept many of these houses from being destroyed. Plans to renovate many of the Hutongs, to either be sold on for massive profit or used as hotels for tourists boasting a more traditional, yet still luxurious experience, are also in effect.
This course of action is being taken with many of the older, more traditional buildings. Many have been closed down for renovation and then reopened for tourists as either hotels or scenic hotspots. This constant and rapid flux has boosted China’s appeal in the West, promoting the image that China is a country quickly on the move to a prosperous future.